Mary Furlong Speaks Out on the Escalating Aging Market's Business Opportunities
Mary Furlong is the President of Mary Furlong & Associates. Furlong is recognized internationally as a leading authority on marketing to the Boomer Generation. As a result for more than 20 years, she has guided the digital marketing strategies of major U.S. corporations for their 45+ age markets.
Start up companies such as BigScreenLive, Les Concierges, and Decision Street are consulting her as they develop marketing strategies for seniors.
Her clients include such established organizations as AARP, ASA, NCOA, Microsoft, Yahoo, Twin Cities Public Television, Heart Math, and At Prime.
Non profit organizations also seek her counsel. Because they do, she sits on the advisory boards of the Leadership Council of the National Council on Aging, the Business Council on Aging, WomenSage.org, and the Institute for Knowledge Management in Education.
The U.S. Government has benefited from her experience. Furlong held a White House appointment as an advisor to President Clinton and Congress as a member of the National Commission on Libraries and Information Sciences from 1995-2000. During those years, she organized a Senate hearing on the topic of aging and the Internet.
She is a hot commodity for the print and broadcast media and has appeared on The Today Show, PBS, CBS and ABC news shows to discuss issues related to trends in aging and technology. The New York Times and Wall Street Journal have featured her.
Her media recognition also includes Time Magazine acknowledging her contribution as chairman of ThirdAge Media by honoring her in 1999 as one of its "Digital 50." In March 2001, Fortune Small Business Magazine named her as one of the "Top 25 Women Entrepreneurs." Interactive Age included her among its "Twenty-Five Unsung Heroes on the Web." She has received the "New Choices Award" from Reader's Digest.
A business savvy individual, she has initiated three entrepreneurial ventures: SeniorNet.org (l996); ThirdAge Media (l996) and Mary Furlong and Associates (2002). She raised more than $130 million dollars in corporate sponsorship and venture capital financing.
She is the executive producer of What's Next and co-producer of the Silicon Valley Boomer Venture Summit. She is an Executive Professor of Entrepreneurship at Santa Clara University.
An author, her latest book is Turning Silver into Gold, Prentice Hall 2008.
She lives in Lafayette, CA. She is married and has two sons. Her hobbies are reading, sailing and playing with Annie, her new Golden Lab.
She was interviewed by John M. Williams, founder of Assistive Technology News and creator of ATechNews.com.
Williams: What motivated you to become a marketing leader in the senior market?
Furlong: I believe that there is a crucial need to develop products and services that can inspire us to live longer and better. My work through (SeniorNet.org, ThirdAge.com and Mary Furlong and Associates) my companies have been about reinstituting the role of older adults in society. I think the most change will come from entrepreneurs and entrepreneurial companies and non profits.
Williams: Where do you see the market going in the senior area?
Furlong: It is a giant, global market; over 91% of the net assets are in this market. Technology and disability will be a big focus in the future. The assistive technology and information technology worlds must better prepare themselves to deal with this global market.
Williams: What companies are the biggest beneficiaries in marketing to seniors?
Furlong: Those who catch the wave about the needs and interests and develop stellar services and products to meet them. I list services first as there is a ton of opportunities there.
Williams: Are employers ready to hire seniors?
Furlong: Yes. But let me emphasize that Boomers don't want to be called seniors. As for employment increasingly, companies are looking to the intelligence, experience, networking skills, work ethic as they hire mature workers.
Williams: Are manufacturers and service providers ready to market to seniors?
Furlong: Yes - the smart ones are already there - take a look at Philips, Intuit, Microsoft, Lily - just to name a few.
Williams: In your opinion, besides the prescription drug area, what is the next largest market for seniors?
Furlong: Transportation, mobility, and any area that responds to the dissonances of aging - the hearing, vision, joint health marketplace. Travel and learning will also be big.
Williams: In your opinion what are the greatest personal challenges seniors face?
Furlong: Balancing their budgets with rising health care and energy costs. Loneliness will remain the social ill. Assistive technology access can decrease that loneliness.
Williams: When I was young, 50 was considered old? Now 50 is considered young? At what age should we consider a person old?
Furlong: (Smiling) 102.
Williams: There is a whole science growing up around senior care, how important is senior care to maintaining a quality of life for seniors?
Furlong: It is important. Expect technology innovations from housing, travel, mobility etc.
Williams: How important is assistive technology in the lives of seniors?
Furlong: Crucial. Assistive technology access enriches the quality of life among boomers. You will find assistive technology access to be a dominant global area in this century. Take a look at the huge aging market in China.
Williams: What is the thrust of your March 26 conference and what is its title?
Furlong: The conference will be held in Washington, DC at the Omni Shoreham Hotel. Its title is What's Next?. Boomer Business Summit. It will focus on marketing strategies needed in this market. We have in attendance over 30 of the top companies serving this market. It will feature the latest in mobile marketing, cause related marketing, internet marketing; magazines that matter; strategies that work. There is an abundance of talent at this event. Many thought leaders - authors, analysts, corporate executives, and non profit leaders. It promises to be fun and educational.
Williams: What is the web site for your conference in March?